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Hemingford: made from scratch

By John Crabtree,, Center for Rural Affairs

It started in Judy Stewart’s junior high health class. While discussing nutrition, Judy, Heminford’s school nurse, heard lots of comments from students about wanting better, fresher food in the cafeteria. Judy is not the first educator to hear students complain about cafeteria food, but she recognized a valuable teaching moment and seized it.

“I challenged the students to come up with ideas about what they could do to change Hemingford’s school lunch program,” Judy explained. “We came up with the idea of them putting together a survey, and they worked their little hearts out on it. When it was finished, we got permission to distribute the survey to the entire school.”

The results reinforced the classes thoughts – students throughout the school wanted fresher food, fruits, vegetables, etc. They shared survey results with Superintendent Casper Ningen and sold him on the idea of improving the school lunch program. The Hemingford School Board not only went for the idea, they invested $60,000 for the transition from “warm and serve” to a “made from scratch” without hesitation.

“That investment was crucial,” cautioned Judy, who was charged with supervising the school kitchen’s transition. “Other schools that attempt this should recognize that after a couple of decades of ‘warm and serve’ some equipment needs to be replaced. Even the lack of a knife sharpener can be an obstacle when making lunches from scratch, something you don’t always think about on day one.”

Hemingford now serves made from scratch meals every day.

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.